Sep 30, 2009

Paris: Pervert Capital of the World?

And they say New Yorkers are rude...check this out from the London Telegraph

Paris may be the city of love but it is also the capital of perverts. To experience this, you simply need to be female and walk down the street. You’re almost guaranteed to get your daily dose of dirty old men and if you live on the Left Bank, you really don’t need to go far.
In the space of a few weeks, I have been propositioned by at least a dozen men. As I wait to cross the road, at Saint Michel, a man old enough to be my grandfather leans over towards me and whispers seductively in my ear: "Jolies fesses" (nice bum).
They reveal themselves in broad daylight, in public places. Strolling through the Jardin du Luxembourg on a sunny day, surrounded by pushchair-wheeling mothers and playing children, a middle-aged man standing by the open-air public pissoires, is having a quick one off the wrist.
Now you might suppose, or hope, that this is out of the ordinary behaviour yet my eyes are graced by a similar vision just a few days later. A girlfriend is in mid flow describing the "special" dance scene from Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest film, Bruno, when lo and behold, we get our own show right there on the Boulevard Saint Germain.
A respectable looking middle-aged man wearing a suit unzips himself right in front of us and pulls it out. Several similar episodes later, I start to think that maybe this is the norm here in Paris. Or is it me? Do I attract "les vieux cochons"?
I question female friends and colleagues and sure enough they all have similar stories to tell. Perhaps it’s simply that Paris is the pervert capital of the world?

Read the rest here and especially gander at one of France's male responses to this. As a man, I'm somewhat appalled and wonder how such attitudes develop? Maybe this is why the Pope likes America so much?

My Daily Reminder of God:

He's got a cold nose, a wagging tail and he loves me without hesitation...

with a h/t to the Deacon at his new address.

Sep 29, 2009

The next time you want to complain about an election...

just think about this...

From the BBC:

At least 87 people have been killed after troops in Guinea opened fire on a huge opposition rally in the capital Conakry, reports say.

An earlier death toll of 58 rose by nearly 30 late on Monday, according to unnamed police sources.
Some 50,000 people rallied against Capt Moussa Dadis Camara who seized power in Guinea in a bloodless coup last year.
The rally was triggered by indications he is to reverse a pledge not to run in a presidential vote set for January.

"There are 87 bodies that were collected in and around the stadium after the military came through," a police source told the AFP news agency.

Four women are among the dead.

There has been no independent confirmation of the casualty figures, and the Guinean authorities have made no public comment.

Meanwhile, France issued a statement strongly condemning the "violent repression" of opposition demonstrators in its former colony.

The BBC's Alhassan Sillah says a doctor at government hospital in Conakry said his wards looked like "a butchery".
Reports also say at least two opposition leaders have been arrested.

"They just started to shoot people directly... They tried to kill us," Sidya Toure, former prime minister and now an opposition leader, told the BBC's Focus on Africa from a hospital.

He said he had been badly injured in the head, and was speaking secretly from the hospital's toilet as the military was not allowing opposition members any contacts with the media.

Pray for those hurt and killed in Africa today not merely in Guinea but also for the bloodshed that continues to occur throughout the entire continent.

A huge h/t to Allen Ottaro who you'll remember from our World Youth Day videos for pointing us towards this story

How We Die (part 2)

I was going to write about wakes and funerals today but instead I was moved by NC Sue's response so deeply that I thought I'd give it special attention:

She writes:

I've worked as a nurse for 35+ years, and I've been at the bedside of the dying more times than I can count. I am not afraid of being dead, but after years of experience caring for the living... and the dying... I'm afraid of what I might have to go through between now and then.

There comes a time when it may be appropriate to embrace death - NOT out of depression or desperation, but out of a recognition that our earthly life IS finite, and rightly so.

There are times when the greatest gift we can give to those we love is permission to die in comfort surrounded by those we love. Read my earlier post at to see what I mean.

"Eternal life" doesn't mean that our current bodies continue forever. It means that our souls continue after the death of our earthly bodies. I pray that the transition I make... and that YOU make... will be gentle and surrounded by love.

For those of you who didn't follow her link in the post above. Here's a brief tease snippet:

Matt was reluctant to talk about it at first, but I think he knew that Janice was dying. We all did. And there were tears shed by all of us, especially on the day that Matt brought their little baby in and laid her on the bed beside a mom she would never know.

After seeing the extent of Janice 's suffering and after numerous heart-breaking conversations with the staff, Matt decided that the time had come for us to remove the breathing tube and to allow Janice the opportunity to die if, indeed, it was her time. I was working with Janice that day.

After the decision was made, I talked with Matt about what to expect. I told him that the ventilator would be turned off, the breathing tube would be removed, and that Janice probably wouldn’t live long after that. I told him that she might have some noisy and irregular breaths and that her color would change. I told him that he could remain in the room if he wished but that I would stay with Janice and be sure she wasn't in pain. Matt decided to stay.

Go read the whole post, get a hanky but also be sure to notice how beautifully this man loved his wife.

A huge h/t to NC Sue over at her fine blog, In Him We Live And Move And Have Our Being

Sep 28, 2009

Beyond Blue

Therese Borchard is an excellent writer and knows how to carve out a niche well with her writing. Her touching and very real blog at Beliefnet, "Beyond Blue" often moves me "Beyond Words" as she writes unhesitatingly about her struggle with mental illness, something that has effected many of my own friends and family. It is a serious and treatable illness, one that often goes undetected. Therese takes us into the midst of her struggle and how she deals with it in this touching post.

On a discussion thread at Group Beyond Blue, Larry wrote: "Underneath my mental illness are simply enormous, even incalculable, mental reserves. And if my illness strikes again, I need to remember those reserves are there, even if I can't get to them right now."

I had an opportunity to do that yesterday.

I journeyed back to the exact spot where I felt a calming hope when I was so desperately seeking a solution to my severe depression three and a half years ago: to the 10-foot statue of Jesus in the lobby of Johns Hopkins's Billing Administrative Building, where Eric and I stopped on our way to my psychiatric evaluation in March, 2006.

I remember that moment so clearly.

I looked around at all the students with their backpacks and wondered if I'd ever be able to use my brain again. I peered skeptically at the doctors--wondering if they were thieves wanting to steal any creativity or passion or zest I had left in me with the toxic drugs they would pump into me.

I was so afraid.

Of everything.

Until I saw that statue. And read the inscription, written in capital letters on the pedestal: "Come unto me all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28).

Suddenly I felt lighter. As if Jesus really did relieve me of the backpack of rocks I had been carrying for a good year. I began to cry, to release all the fear inside of me. I couldn't stop crying until we arrived at the consultation.

Now, of course, I can see it in perspective.

That moment at the statue was, indeed, the beginning of my miracle. It was thirty minutes before I would meet the psychiatrist who would be able to successfully treat my bipolar disorder.

Read the rest here and then offer a prayer for all those who have mental illnesses and those who care for them.

How Should We Die?

At one point in my life I thought about what decision I might like to make if I were an old man well into my 80s and ridden with a most-likely terminal Illness. I thought that I would want to be hooked up to every kind of machine available and allow my life to continue through pain and the fogginess of pain meds.

Then I worked for a semester at Calvary Hospital a wonderful Bronx hospital for mostly terminal patients. My job as a volunteer was simply to visit people as a pastoral worker. We'd basically help them fill up their days with conversation and activities. It was hard work...very hard. There were days that I'd walk around the hospital afraid to enter one more room of someone who may not be there on my next visit.

But I also think I learned how to die as well.

I saw people afraid to die, filled with a lot of regrets, amazingly not because of things that they did but because of things that they did not do. A relationship still not mended, a chance not taken, words not spoken. It seemed that risk was always something worth taking and these folks made every overture that they regretted not taking the ones that they let slip by.

And yet, after airing those grievances to someone like me, a virtual stranger, I saw many patients become peaceful. Some time ago my mother had a struggle during major colon surgery. The doctors gave her only a 28% chance to survive. Both she and our family prepared for her death. I had readings planned for the funeral and began writing a death notice and a eulogy. I saw a woman who had a lot of fear of what might await but also I saw a hopeful woman, who often had vivid dreams of her own father and her joy at the possibility of reacquainting with him. I got the idea that anticipation of our breathing ceasing was what she feared but she also grew hopeful of life beyond this one.

We often cling to our lives, forgetting what Jesus said to us that those who try to save their life will lose it. We get caught up in saving our own hides and forget about how we should live and by living each day we also realize that we die a bit with each passing moment as well. Each moment is truly precious and we need to treasure it.

So as I read my early morning paper the other day...this story captured my attention:

In the last days of her life, Annabel Kitzhaber had a decision to make: she could be the tissue-skinned woman in the hospital with the tubes and the needles, the meds and smells and the squawk of television. Or she could go home and finish the love story with the man she’d been married to for 65 years.

Her husband was a soldier who had fought through Europe with Patton’s army. And as he aged, his son would call him on D-Day and thank him – for saving the world from the Nazis, for bequeathing his generation with a relatively easy time.

That son, John Kitzhaber, knew exactly what his mother’s decision meant. He was not only a governor, a Democrat who served two terms in Oregon as it tried to show the world that a state could give health care to most of its citizens, but a doctor himself.

At age 88, with a weak heart, and tests that showed she most likely had cancer, Annabel chose to go home, walking away from the medical-industrial complex.

“The whole focus had been centered on her illness and her aging,” said Kitzhaber. “But both she and my father let go that part of their lives that they could not control and instead began to focus on what they could control: the joys and blessings of their marriage.”

She died at home, four months after the decision, surrounded by those she loved. Her husband died eight months later.

The story of Annabel and Albert Kitzhaber is no more remarkable that a grove of ancient maple trees blushing gold in the early autumn, a moment in a life cycle. But for reasons both cynical and clinical, the American political debate on health care treats end-of-life care like a contagion — an unspeakable one at that.

Nobody was more frustrated than John Kitzhaber as the health care debate got hijacked over the summer by shouters and misinformation specialists. And no politician is more battle-scarred on this issue. He looks, at 62, still the Western man, with his jeans, his shag of gray hair, the face weathered by days spent trying to lure steelhead to the surface in the Rogue River. It has been his life work to see if at least one part of country could join the family of nations that offers universal coverage.

With his mother’s death in 2005, Kitzhaber lived the absurdities of the present system. Medicare would pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for endless hospital procedures and tests but would not pay $18 an hour for a non-hospice care giver to come into Annabel’s home and help her through her final days.

We have our priorities all mixed up. We spend millions on helping people to live and preserve their lives and rightfully so...but should we not also pay attention to how life ends as well? We indeed can help people die with dignity and love and without denigrating human life either. Euthanasia is never moral but saying "Enough! I want to live my final days being loved rather than being medicated" is such a beautiful way to look at life's ending chapter.

In Mitch Ablom's award winning Tuesdays With Morrie, Morrie gave us a glimpse of how I now begin to look at the end of my life. To paraphrase, Morrie said that babies relish someone taking care of all their needs. They splash in the bath and love getting powdered and even seem to enjoy having a diaper changed. We revolt against all of this as we leave this life, quite the opposite tendency than we had when we entered this world. Would it not be more appropriate to become once again a little baby and relish the care that those who give it to us offer? What choice do we really have?

So the question for you today is how would you prefer to spend your dying days? What do you think you'll regret? What might you look forward to? And what are you doing today to prepare for our journey home to God?

Tomorrow: My Thoughts on Funerals and Wakes

Sep 26, 2009

NY Catechetical Day

So I got to conduct a workshop on technology and ministry for the NY Archdiocese's Catechetical Day. A true honor as a son of the Archdiocese (raised in Yonkers, NY). My big thrill was hearing Archbishop Dolan preach and getting to meet him in person. Fr James Martin, SJ and I were chatting and he wanted to go and say hi to the Archbishop whom he has met before so I tagged along seizing the opportunity. I introduced myself as one of the presenters and I have to say Archbishop Dolan really does make you feel like you are the only one in the room who is important to him while he's talking with you.

Archbishop Dolan: "Hey Mike, thanks so much for being here""

ME: "Oh sure, please, thanks for inviting me."

Archbishop Dolan: "So what are you talking about here today?"

Me; "Technology, ministry and young adults. I brought you my book too on the subject. I'll leave it with Sr. Joan (who is the director of catechetics for the Archdiocese)."

Archbishop Dolan: "Thanks so much. Hey, y'know they keep telling me that I should do the ipod thing and facebook. What do you think?"

Me: "You absolutely should!"

Archbishop Dolan: "Well I don't know, I'm kind of a novice at this."

Me: "Well...this is stuff is pretty new so most people have been novices and now are doing well with it. Look if you need some help I'd be happy to give you a crash course."

He proceeded to take me up on the offer so we'll make some plans and he also invited me to be a guest on his radio show.
OK, I'm not impressed all that easily but that was pretty smooth. Just a nice man. I'm off to call his producer now.

Sep 25, 2009

What Would Winnie the Pooh Do?

Sometimes fictional characters lead us to examine our own lives more deeply. I was reminded of this by another blogger as she wrote

When I am teaching I sometimes think, "What would Winnie the Pooh do?" Winnie the Pooh and the other characters from the Hundred Acre Wood are often simply and profoundly wise. When I am sometimes stumped, my thoughts turn to Winnie the Pooh.

Let me tell you a bit about my day at school yesterday, and I will sprinkle in some words of wisdom from Winnie the Pooh as it relates to my teaching and to life.

It began in much the same way that every other day of my substitute teaching begins. I was jogging down the hall at school, allright if truth be told I was running as if I were being chased by assailants and they were in hot pursuit of me, to get to the office. I ran nearly the entire length of the first floor hallway and skidded to a stop right before the main office door. Fortunately it is always kept open otherwise there would be days when I would probably crash right into it. Then I beat a path to the timeclock and punched in as all the teachers do. I was right on time.

This early morning jog is really about getting my heart rate up and squeezing in some exercise first thing in the day. Winnie the Pooh's character does his stoutness exercises. For me teaching is my cardio.

Then it was off to the classroom to prep, and licketly split moments later the children start to arrive. Arrival time is a critical time of day. I take a good look at each child and check to see if anything seems out of the ordinary, greet each child by name and have a short chat to find out what's what with them. This is the time of day when I check each child's emotional pulse so to speak and get a baseline so I have an idea of where we are. I say we because we, the children and I, are most definitely in this thing together, all day until dismissal at the end of the school day.

Winnie the Pooh would say, "A little Consideration, a little Thought for Others, makes all the difference." You bet it does.

Read the rest here as it was Editor's Choice over at Salon and it is a delightful distraction from our usual cynicism into the world of child-like wonder.

What is Spiritual Direction?

I've answered this question before but this article from the Philly Inquirer does a nice job of explaining:

Fifteen years ago, Susan Cole was a pastor with a troubling dilemma: She felt unable to pray. It was a stressful time in her parish at Arch Street United Methodist Church in Center City, and Cole felt her anxiety climbing. She tried closing her eyes and focusing on a meaningful passage of Scripture. She tried waking before dawn to pray. All that did was make her tired.

"I was a mess," she recalls. "I would feel myself working really hard, I'd get more anxious and not feel any connection to God."

Finally Cole found an adviser, a Roman Catholic nun, and began meeting with her. The woman listened closely as Cole described her spiritual anguish; one day she asked Cole to read aloud from Colossians. "She paid very close attention to where my voice shifted. She said, 'Go back to that line and read it again.' She kept leading me deeper and deeper, to a place where I felt very sad and lonely, and there, I could feel God's spirit."

Almost immediately, Cole's prayer life unclogged. "It felt like magic: I go to see [my adviser] and my spirit gets revitalized."

Cole, 64, now knows the process wasn't magic - it was spiritual direction, an ancient practice with Christian roots that has recently seen a revival among contemporary seekers from all faiths, including some who don't necessarily believe in God. In a culture where people readily engage physical trainers to hone their bodies and psychotherapists to untangle their neuroses, an increasing number are looking to spiritual directors as "spotters" for their souls.

About 300 training programs in spiritual direction exist worldwide, housed in universities, seminaries, and independent retreat centers. Spiritual Directors International, a 20-year-old organization based in Bellevue, Wash., has seen its membership swell from 4,000 in 2002 to 7,000 in 2008. There are even YouTube videos explaining and promoting the practice.

"I have seen a huge rise in awareness" of spiritual direction, says Liz Ward, director of the spiritual guidance program at the Shalem Institute in Bethesda, Md., which draws students of numerous faiths including Jews, Buddhists, Baptists, and Roman Catholics to its two-year program.

Spiritual directors typically meet monthly with their directees, who may or may not share the same religious background; the relationship can continue for years. Unlike psychotherapy, which is problem-based and designed to alleviate distress, spiritual direction doesn't aim to "fix" anything. Instead, it offers people a place to talk about their spiritual lives without fear of judgment. For some, that means discussing God or prayer in the context of their faith; others use language such as "the yearning of the soul."

In short, spiritual directors, like myself, try to companion people, to unearth where they might be seeing God working in their lives. We ask good questions and provide fewer answers--rather we help you to find some guidance 'with God's help" by looking more deeply at where God may be working in your life or where you may struggle to see God lurking in the background.

If you'd like to find a spiritual director in your area check out Spiritual Directors International and look at their blog as well.

Sep 24, 2009

Mass Etiquette: Do Catholics Sing? And Should We Practice Before Mass?

Last week we talked about babies crying at mass, attire for worship and now I'd like to examine a third topic.

Do Catholics sing?

Now granted, I'm no Frank Sinatra, but I tend to at least try to sing at mass because i strongly feel like it is part of our mandated participation in the liturgy (the work of the people). But I also think that there is a strong faction of people who would much rather listen than sing, especially if your choir is great!

I've been attending a mass that has no music lately--or, I should say, no accompaniment. And I must say I really miss the organ which helps people like me who can't carry a tune in a bucket, at least think they aren't butchering the song.

Good choir directors hold their singers to higher standards but also besides sounding good, the job of the choir and especially of the cantor (if your parish uses one) is to be inviting. You are the leader of song but that does not mean that you are "performing." You are "leading prayer-song" and we should all be participating with you. Your job is to help us sing with you. You can sing and we can follow you. Without you, we may indeed be lost. This is another reason that the music should indeed be good quality at mass. You play better tennis with better tennis players--and you sing better with people who have been trained to do so well, even if you haven't been.

Now all that being said, I think that the little practices that choir directors do before mass are a bit overdone. What people want in music at mass is good quality and singable music--things that we don't really have to stretch too far to sing ourselves. My thought is that if we have to practice it, then we probably shouldn't sing it.

I do like a lot of the call and response hymns/songs that are out there these days and favored by a much younger demographic. They do in fact give room for the Cantor to lead and for us to respond to the prayer-leader. It's a great way for the laity to play a proper part in the liturgy as well.

I also think that the music should reflect the ritual. So we might have a very rousing and lively opening hymn (AKA the processional hymn) or even a beautiful processional featuring classical Bach. But come communion time, something much more contemplative is called for, and we may opt for a Taize chant or even Gregorian chant.

Here's a great article on the 8 myths about music at mass. One myth that adds to my comment about choirs performing:

Myth 3. Choirs are only there to support congregational singing.

In the early church, the faithful sang much of the Mass. There were, however, certain melodies and texts that developed over time that some found difficult to sing.

Choirs, or scholae cantorum, were developed with trained singers who not only supported congregational singing, but also performed some pieces on their own. Europe saw the development of famous choir schools and Catholic education has always included the teaching of music in its curricula. The advent of part-singing made choirs even more necessary to the Mass.

Choirs can be beneficial in leading the faithful in song, but they also can have their own role apart from the congregation. Active participation does not mean that everyone has to do the same things at the same time; it implies an interior participation by listening and contemplation as much as engaging in following the Mass and observing ritual gestures.

Paid professional cantors and choirs have been a part of the Catholic musical tradition for many centuries and continue to inspire Christians in their worship beyond what is accessible to the ordinary pew-singer. Vatican II explicitly urges the development of such choirs and musical education in schools.

What are your pet peeves about music at mass? Are you bored by the old-school hymns or are you inspired by the sounds of the pipe organ? Do diva cantors and awesome choirs inspire you to sing more--or do they make you more passive and more apt to simply listen rather than participate? Do you sing out loud or are you embarrassed? What's the deal?

Sep 23, 2009

Brittany, A Boy and a Blind a Buick?

BustedHalo® Development Coordinator and all-around awesome pal, Brittany Janis, is hitting the road. And you should try to track her down. BustedHalo's® latest out of the box idea is akin to something like "Where in the World is Brittany Janis and her blind beagle?"

BustedHalo® reports:

What happens when a girl, a boy and a blind beagle jump in a ‘97 Buick LeSabre and take a road trip across America? We’re not sure yet, but it should be pretty awesome — and we want you to be a part of it.

Brittany, who does development at Busted Halo®, her boyfriend Samuel, who does a different kind of development at an internet startup, and their loveable and perpetually hungry blind beagle Shiloh, who makes a profession of sniffing and snoozing, are headed for Google in San Francisco, where Samuel is presenting at the SVG Open conference it’s hosting. They’re jumping in the LeSabre, Flip video camera in hand, and hitting the road for an old fashioned cross country trip, ending at one of the most futuristic places in America. And along the way they want to meet you.

Here's where you come pay attention!

We want to know what you’re passionate about, what inspires you about your faith; we want to know where you find God, and we want to help you share that. We’re taking a sort of digital pilgrimage, to find what faith and spirituality means to us — and to you and others in our nationwide Busted Halo audience.

Here is a map of Brittany, Samuel and Shiloh’s proposed route: They leave NYC late night September 25; although the evening stops are not definite (aside from Cleveland to visit their parents), they need to make it to the tech Mecca by October 2, and back to NYC by October 11.

So, if you’re along that route, get in touch and let us come visit, so you share your passions with us. Email brittany (at) bustedhalo (dot) com to plan a visit. Even if you’re not on the route, you can follow their progress — where they are and what’s happened so far on their journey: They’ll be video blogging on our facebook fan page and here on and giving nightly updates on the radio show.

Hit it Willie:

Your Love and Your Grace Are Enough For Me...

and the Lutherans agree with us on that. Salvation is through grace alone...but don't take my word for it. Take Cardinal George's.


The esteemed BustedHalo® Columnist Dr Christine Whelan steps out of her sex and relationships role to profile one of the world's greatest scientists who you probably have never heard of. She writes:

You’ve never heard of him, yet when he died he was lauded as history’s “greatest human being.” You’ve never heard of him, yet he changed your life.

Dr. Norman Borlaug, who died September 12, 2009, at the age of 95, was humble and kind, and devoted his intelligence not to getting rich himself but to transforming the lives of those who needed help the most.

We spend so much of our time focusing on the goings-on of celebrities and reality TV stars — and that’s OK; it’s only human — but occasionally it’s important to give tribute to a person who is really changing our world, quietly, with no spotlight or paparazzi documenting their journey.

Dr. Norman Borlaug: An American Hero
Born in 1914 in rural Iowa, Borlaug won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his work that contributed to ending the India-Pakistan food shortage of the mid-60s. Until Dr. Borlaug’s discoveries, rot and infestation could decimate wheat crops and reduce entire countries to starvation.

He taught impoverished farmers worldwide how to grow healthier crops and is credited with starting the “Green Revolution” — preventing the global famine many scientists and demographers had predicted as a result of world population growth after World War II.

Even profiled on The West Wing

Dr Christine makes a great point. We often know a lot of superficial people, but here's someone that we should know and appreciate and we probably have never heard of him. And for someone as humble and unassuming as Borlaug, that probably was OK.

Project Chaste: Not For Losers?

Often when young people start talking about leading chaste lives and screaming it from the rafters that they are saving themselves for marriage, I wonder why they need to make such a public spectacle of themselves. I have a tendency to wan to say "No worries, mate. You won't have much of a problem with celibacy. Nobody's going to want to have sex with you anyway because you are creepy."

Then there are those creepy father/daughter dances and chastity rings that make the chastity choosers look like fringe element losers.

However, perhaps I have bought into a typical Hollywood stereotype of those who choose to save themselves for marriage, because I'm beginning to find that this is no longer the case with today's younger people.

Take a look at this:

Normal, good-looking, articulate and non-creepy. A healthy attitude towards sexuality too.

What thinkest thou?

Sep 22, 2009

CatholicMom: Worried About Being a Parent in a New Technological Age

Lisa Hendey, better known as Catholic Mom puts a call to action regarding the video we posted last week. If I had a dime for every parent who said something like this to me....

I caught this video over at Mike Hayes’ blog – with a teen headed to college next year and a tremendous interest in New Media, it caught my attention. I’ve seen my kids “multitask”, seen how they interact with their friends online and in person, seen them turn off the TV but live out loud to iTunes, and seen the way they obtain their information. What are we, the grown ups who love them — and a Church who wants to reach them — doing to realize and communicate with them in their changing world? Fascinating – please take five minutes and watch this video. I’d love to hear your take.

Once is the video:

Head on over to Catholic Mom with your ideas.

Do You Wear Your Sunday Best?

Do you get dressed up for Sunday mass? I have to say it's not always a priority for me when I'm not in a ministry role at mass as a lector of eucharistic minister but I grew up with that being a mandatory practice in my home.

Deacon Greg pointed us to this blog article which mentions attire as "something Father should never say."

I have to say that I've seen this as a problematic practice on all sides of the equation. Some stories:

1) A colleague of mine went to his parent's parish one summer while visiting. He showed up with a nice pair of shorts on and a golf shirt on a day that was 95 degrees in the shade. The priest came up to him and said, "You don't usually come to mass here, do you?" My friend told the priest that this was his parent's parish and that he was visiting.

"Yeah, obviously," was the priest's response. "We don't wear shorts here."

Now if the priest thought that this style of dress was inappropriate for mass, then that is his opinion. Personally, I'd be happy to see that someone prioritized mass on their vacation--something that many people in the "three piece suit on Sunday variety" often don't do and excuse themselves from their obligation quietly. Secondly, way to welcome this visitor to the parish, Father Rude Pants!

I'd like to offer the following as poor form that seems to go out the window when it comes to church. If you has just met someone you didn't know, you'd hardly greet them with "Hey you really should dress better!" You'd offer some words of welcome, make small talk and ask them what brought them into your meeting. Not in the Church of the Holy Insulter, apparently is that good manners.

2) A young man was a lector in a parish that I was active in for some time and he showed up one Sunday wearing jeans and a nice crisp white shirt untucked. He looked fine, dressed up for perhaps a casual evening in the city. His hair was combed and his shirt ironed. A woman in the parish came up to him and "suggested" that maybe he should dress more appropriately if he was going to be on the altar.

Needless to say, the young man is yet to return after the incident. He was so insulted. This was a man who had gone through RCIA at the parish and had made it into his parish home. All gone! With one remark.

3) My favorite story: A Cantor in a parish I know is quite possibly the most beautiful woman I have ever seen (save my wife, of course). She always looked fabulous and he voice is amazing and inviting. In my opinion she is the perfect cantor. A woman once took issue with the length of her skirt.

"Young lady, your skirt is much too short!" she yelled at her one day after mass. (It wasn't, BTW)

Cantor woman rolled with it. "Oh no, most of the time they're much shorter."

This only infuriated the woman more. She ran to the pastor and raged at him.

"THAT....THAT....cantor's skirt is entirely inappropriate for mass, Father."

Father's response: "Lady, let me tell you something. That cantor is probably responsible for a good deal of people showing up here every week. I'd guess that 85% of the male population is here because of her and probably 16% of the women."

Lady stormed off. And pastor was right.

Now I will offer the following...

I think we should dress at least somewhat appropriate for mass. The larger question is that who becomes the arbiter for this? A golf shirt and a nice pair of pants is appropriate for men in my opinion,,,a button down shirt is even nicer. But some would say that anything less than a shirt and tie is awful. Women can wear a nice skirt or dress but certainly a nice pair of pants is fine as well. I would say we should think "business casual" while others favor a more formal style. I do sometimes wear jeans, but I don't wear torn jeans or filthy clothes and even that would be inappropriate for some.

I may also say that it's not our job to be the fashion police. And there are more than a few ministry professionals that could use some help from our good friend Peacebang, the esteemed Rev Victoria Weinstein who provides such fashionista advice and those who could use the most help are often the first to scream about others.

Beach attire is usually not appropriate for mass but I would also say that if given the choice of rushing back from the beach to make mass or missing it altogether because of what you're wearing, I'll permit the tank top and flip flops. Otherwise we kind of miss the point.

Lastly, some people claim that some people just can't afford nice clothes and to say something to someone about their attire is elitist. I say simply: Horsefeathers!

Those who can't afford good clothes are almost never the ones who are dressed inappropriately. In fact, they are often the best dressed. When I was In Nicaragua (a developing nation, I might add), it was very important to dress up for church. No bare shoulders for the women, a shirt with a collar for men, shoes, not sneakers or flip flops. It was a matter of respect.

And therein, lies our lesson. This is about respect on all sides. We should respect that this is special time and we should at least make an attempt to look our best or at least not disheveled. I don't think that's asking too much.

But we also need to show some respect to those who come to church, to get to know them on some level before we issue a criticism to them. Would we dare turn away a homeless person who showed up for mass? I doubt it, but we can be a lot more haughty in our judgment with those who we think should know better.

What in your opinion is appropriate mass attire?

Photo credit: Getty Images

Sep 21, 2009

Oh look, another reason to leave New York: Laundromat Wars

So last night I'm doing my laundry at the local Laundromat in Woodside. I usually am a good husband and take the larger loads for my wife up to the 24 hour place on Sunday nights to give her a break (and to watch either late NFL game or Sunday night baseball on their TV).

So my wash cycle is starting to come to an end and I go and look for a laundry bin to transfer to the dryers. I see one planted against the dryers and there's a man sitting nearby eating peanuts. I also see that the dryer that the bin is near has just recently ended it's cycle.

Me: "Excuse me, is anyone about to use this?"

Guy: "Silent"

Me: "Um...hey there, excuse me. Are you going to use this bin?"


Me: ""


(OK now I usually ignore such behavior, but I HATE doing laundry, so I'm not in a great mood)

Me: "Hey man, I asked you a question...and I asked you nicely, you don't have to be a snot."

Guy: "F**k you. Walk!"

Me: (Starting to walk away)..."Dude, that ain't right! The laundry in the dryers that have stopped could have been yours and you might be just about to use the bin. And I'm trying to make sure that I'm not going to take what you were about to use. And by the way, there's no need to curse at me."

Guy: "F**k your mother, you white trash son of a (inaudible)."

Me: "Keep talking, man...keep talking. (walking away)"

Guy: "White trash faggot, get out of here."

Me: (looking directly at the guy) "DUDE! Keep running your mouth...(walk to my machine) go ahead keep it up." (beginning to take my laundry out and into the bin)

Guy: (backs down)

I'm really not a violent person but this guy got to me. So today let us pray that cooler heads always prevail. Obviously we can all be a bit irritable when someone asks what we think is a stupid question and then we can all escalate when someone calls us a name or curses at us. Perhaps both of us touched on some insecurities or even just were the straw that broke the camel's back for the other. Regardless, it's a stupid argument.

Today let us pray for peace in our cities and amongst each other.

Radio Racism...Limbaugh King of Using the Race Card for Ratings

OK, I hesitate to enter into this argument mostly because i find it boring and the equivalent of "arguing with a dining room table" as Barney Frank recently stated to someone who just couldn't have an intelligent conversation. But a number of people have commented on Rush Limbaugh's bus comments and I find it hard to believe that people are saying that Limbaugh comments are not intentionally racist.

Now I also come at this from a rather unique perspective. I was a radio producer and sound engineer for a conservative talk show for years working with the likes of Bob Grant, Jay Diamond, Jay Severin and a host of others. There's only one thing that you need to know about producing these shows and that's if you want to light up the phone lines you say something controversial--abortion and racism were easily the two most popular topics that we could do at any time. We would hope that something about either of these topics were in the papers on any given day because we knew that the phones would be hot. Personally I liked all three men, on a personal level, especially Grant who was rather easy to work with and never really acted like a prima donna and was always good to me. We disagree on politics but I always tried to consider his point of view and we would often pinpoint our areas of disagreement when we'd talk off the air. Grant often said that I had a gift for finding him callers who had pinpointed their disagreement with him, that would often lead to either an intelligent debate or we'd find that the caller and Bob would be so far apart that talking with the caller would usually would be the very thing that would send Grant into a fiery rage. "GET OFFA MY PHONE!", he'd scream.

I also worked as a desk assistant early in my radio career with Don Imus. And wrote on his controversial statement regarding the Rutgers Women's Basketball team some time ago for BustedHalo. And while his show is humor-based, it also often used race or religion to bait listeners into staying with the program to hear what the next crazy thing was that he was going to say.

Now to our friend, Rush Limbaugh. Anyone who thinks that Rush isn't clearly using the race card to boost ratings (and he has been doing it for years) is hopelessly naive. Rush somehow gets a free pass with this with the exception of his forced resignation from Monday Night Football for his comments on Donovan McNabb being the starter for the Eagles because the media wants a black quarterback to do well. (Yes, I'm sure that the Eagles base most of their player personnel decisions on what the media says). Since this is such a repeated pattern, I have no doubt that Rush is either a racist or uses racist statements to appeal to his base or to accuse the media of reverse racism at best. Unlike Imus, Rush is a bit more serious minded of a program and therefore when he makes on overtly racist statement, even to make a greater point about the media or congress, or something else, we have to do a double take and ask: "Is this funny, serious, or is he simply out of phone calls?"

Still don't believe that this is a ploy? Let's take a little walk down memory lane:

Here are five quotes that I can remember hearing off the top of my head that I researched and found for accuracy:

"I mean, let’s face it, we didn’t have slavery in this country for over 100 years because it was a bad thing. Quite the opposite: slavery built the South. I’m not saying we should bring it back; I’m just saying it had its merits. For one thing, the streets were safer after dark."

"Right. So you go into Darfur and you go into South Africa, you get rid of the white government there. You put sanctions on them. You stand behind Nelson Mandela — who was bankrolled by communists for a time, had the support of certain communist leaders. You go to Ethiopia. You do the same thing."

"Take that bone out of your nose and call me back(to an African American female caller)."

"I think the media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. They’re interested in black coaches and black quarterbacks doing well. I think there’s a little hope invested in McNabb and he got a lot of credit for the performance of his team that he really didn’t deserve."

and of course:

I report, you decide...I won't even go into the whole Sotomayor comments.

Sorry forgot to add a final point...The general listening public often mistakes programs like Rush's for news programs instead of opinion programming. One caller once remarked to me that the station has a responsibility to get the facts straight. I replied to him, "Sure during the four minute news segment at the top of the hour, we do. During the talk show it's all about OPINION and not mere fact."

And that is why people listen, of course. But often certain segments of the listening audience DON'T know the difference. I can't tell you how many times I've heard members of my own family say "I heard Bob Grant say that on his show." (implication: so it must be true).

And lastly, many members of the listening audience respect folks like Limbaugh and Grant because "They say what everyone else is afraid to say." Who is the quote from? My own mother who is 81 and who mentions it because she thinks most people who have racist tendencies only share their feelings with other like-minded individuals and not in the general public.

And she's wrong. These shows evoke what certain people's deepest prejudices are and then they provide them with a home for others who share their opinions and they can listen anonymously or even give themselves a moniker and become a caller "Joe in White Plains" or whatever. What is the result? Ghettoism. We develop a place where we never have to talk with anyone who disagrees with us again--or we can make fun of those who disagree.

We don't do that here on this blog. We welcome everyone to the weigh in on what you think and let's talk about this intelligently bringing lots of points of views forward!

Let No One Have Contempt For Your Youth

Often young people think they have no role in the church.

They lack confidence and vigor. They think they have nothing to add to the conversation.

Often when training young people to give retreats to other young people I run up against the refusal of many young people particpating as team leaders because they think they are simply not good enough.

This past week, I was speaking to the recently ordained priests of the Diocese of Boise. They were all for the most part--young men...mostly in their 30s and 40s--which is young these days for a priest. And more importantly, they were for me signs of young leadership in the church. But even they, at times, lacked the confidence that they felt they should have.

This seems to be an age-old phenomenon as Paul writes to Timothy in the first reading today...”Let no one have contempt for your youth.”

The big mistake that many older people make about younger people--in a spiritual sense--is that while it may be true that younger people are less experienced, perhaps less catechized in the faith and maybe even less likely to attend mass even...we then assume that it means that they have NO spiritual experience.

Let me tell you about just two young people who have inspired me...during my time here at BustedHalo....

Lisa was sexually abused on a date as a young woman. Deep down she knew and wanted to believe that God indeed did not abandon her but had a hard time finding God at work in her life. After much prayer and some spiritual direction, Lisa was able to realize that while what happened to her was horrible and it should never happen to anyone, God was there helping her get past the horror of that moment, living with her in her pain and sorrow and bringing her into healing--through friends, through parents, through doctors and counselors.

This “spiritual” experience if you will...led Lisa to counsel other rape victims. Led her to share her story on our retreats as one of the most powerful examples of someone who worked very hard to find God’s presence in her life and who now brings that healing presence to the lives of others.

Our second story comes from someone much younger...a four year old child named Elvira in an orphanage in Nicaragua. Elvira can’t talk, can’t use her arms or legs much and has the prettiest smile you’d ever hope to see. On my most recent visit to Nicaragua, I sat in the chapel with her and realized that I really had nothing to give to this child. I couldn’t cure her, I couldn’t communicate to her, I could only love her. The same was true for Elvira...she had nothing that we normally would say was valuable that she could give to me. She couldn’t even play or tell me a joke as many children that I normally encounter do often with me.

But there in the slums of Nicaragua was lying the answer to the great spiritual questions of the day--What do we all really need? And the truth is that all Elvira wanted was love and all she could give back to me was the same. She loved to be held and snuggled and picked up high in the air. She loved to just sit and rock and maybe listen to a song or two. And the time I spent with Elvira, knowing that God was more than enough for both of us...sitting in the God’s presence and feeling so connected to something beyond words, beyond even consciousness was the most profound moment of my own spiritual life.

And it was taught to me by a 4 year old.

So to the young priests of Idaho and the young amongst us listening on podcast --you have much to offer, much spiritual experience to share. Go now and reflect on where God is really working in your lives...and share that experience with others.

And remember the words of Paul....
Let no one have contempt for your youth.

Sep 20, 2009

And a child shall lead them...

Or in this case a whole bunch of kids showing one another just what it means to be Jesus for someone else.

Camp Barnabas from Steve V on Vimeo.

An extra hanky wave at the Good Deacon.

Reflection for Sunday's Gospel

Today's Gospel gives me much to reflect on

Taking a child, he placed it in the their midst,
and putting his arms around it, he said to them,
“Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me;
and whoever receives me,
receives not me but the One who sent me.”

We've been talking a lot here about children being a bit of a handful for parents at mass and indeed we all have had experiences of that being true. We've seen soccer moms who have all they can do to get their children to simply sit still at mass. We often talk a good game about passing on the faith to our children but don't really know the best way to teach them about Jesus.

It is Catechetical Sunday and we owe a great deal of gratitude to those who formally teach our children the Catholic faith, prepare them for their first sacraments and in general, provide them with spiritual guidance. But ask any teacher and they will most likely agree that it's these children who often teach us more about Jesus than we teach them.

A quick story...OK maybe not so quick...but I will do my best to condense each...

I was a camp counselor for 6 years and there is one story that I always remember.

Mark Kissell was a soft-spoken, introverted 5 year old who wasn't very athletic. A bit of a hothouse flower, he was afraid of playing anything with a ball. I even rolled the ball to him once and he ran away from it. He wasn't enjoying camp in fact, he was afraid of getting out of the car some days.

But Marc was such a sweet kid. He would always share toys and was polite to his counselors. In fact, his favorite words seemed to "excuse me." His brother, Andrew, a bit more outgoing, would try to get him to play more but Marc was just afraid.

So I decided that Marc was going to be my project for the year. A small victory would be to get him to play catch with me. Everyday I'd start to throw the dodgeball to him a little harder and he'd become more comfortable catching and throwing and even missing the ball wasn't such a big deal anymore.

He graduated to a heaver basketball. And began to learn to dribble and shoot. For days he got nowhere close to the basket. But a little practice got him to hit the rim of the basket on one afternoon. I knelt down to him and said "Marc, you are so close to getting that ball in the basket...just a little more ooompf this time and you'll do it!"

Marc closed his eyes, visualizing that ball going in as I had taught him. He took the ball and launched it towards the basket...and as the ball floated into the basket...swish!...his eyes grew so wide and his smile so bright that I don't think I've ever seen anyone look that happy again. I hoisted him on my shoulders and we ran around the gym. He hugged me so tightly and his mom was so proud at the end of the day. For me, it was a moment when I realized what joy really consisted of and what I had experienced was an opportunity not to experience accomplishment but to experience the joy of newness...of seeing things through the eyes of a child. The amazement of a child--the sheer pleasure of simplicity was a moment where Jesus was clearly present in a very vivid way. That moment for Marc and I was over 23 years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday. The world seemed to slow down and God was indeed fully present...I just knew I was there because I needed to understand this gospel passage:

"Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me;
and whoever receives me,
receives not me but the One who sent me."

When we are with children we have a great responsibility to see the awe that they see, to recapture our own amazement for the mundane, to see world embued with God's grandeur. We often miss that. We miss the giggling exuberance of children in favor of our own jaded adulthood. We look for God's grace and often find it hard to find.

Until we see God all over again through a child's eyes.

Jesus destroyed death and includes us in his life...but do we ever have a child's enthusiasm for something so grand? When we get on line for communion do we have a childlike anticipation of receiving Jesus into our bodies, or is it just another "thing to do"?

Perhaps each time we hear a baby cry at mass, or a rambunctious child in church we might want to think that they cannot help their wailing because they can't understand why we too are not stirring in our souls!

On Social Networking

One of my favorite bloggers recently published a great primer on the church's opinions on social networking. Besides myself, she also interviewed several other hotshots like Deacon Greg Kandra, Jim Martin and Paul Snatchko.

Texting, Twitter, Facebook and blogs are everywhere, shouting out thoughts and opinions. We can report even our most mundane activities. How, then, does social networking impact our faith?

Rev. James Ebert, associate pastor at St. Mary’s in Ballston Spa, likes using Facebook. Three people he knew 10 years ago connected with him via Facebook — and then all came to Mass while visiting from out of town recently. This continued connection may have never happened via phone or even email.

In his recent encyclical, “Charity in Truth,” Pope Benedict XVI does address modern communication and its potential for both good and ill. Media, the pope says, should be “geared toward a vision of the person and the common good that reflects truly universal values.”

This is easier said than done.

Read the many opinions and thoughts on social networking here. Paul's in particular were quite this snip.

“Every parish has a phone,” added Mr. Snatchko, but there was a time that was not the case. The use of technology will move along those same lines over time. In the meantime, he said, “We need to get the Word out, evangelize, gather and build community” in online forums.

Sep 19, 2009

Blogger Meet Up

Bloggers Fran Rossi Szpylczyn and Paul Snatchko and I all happened to be in the same place at the same time so we thought we'd break some bread together and capture the moment for posterity. Paul and I are good friends so we see each other often but it was great to see Fran in person and her delightful friend Sue on their visit to hear Fr. Richard Rohr speak over at St John's University.

Fran made the rounds to other bloggers including everyone's favorite deacon as well out in the land of Brooklyn and Net TV as well. Next year in Jerusalem!

Breaking Up is Hard To Do...

but it looks like that is what will happen to the Legionaries of Christ....

From America Magazine's Blog

The result of Rome's investigation (known as an "apostolic visitation") into the Legionaries of Christ will result in either the dissolution or the re-founding of the order, according to sources close to the Legionaries in Spain. There, a Basque bishop, Ricardo Blazquez, is in charge of the visitation; in the US, it is being led by the Archbishop of Denver, Charles Chaput. Their main task, apparently, is to assess whether the order's members will be accepting of whatever Rome decides.

Dissolution would mean the houses, universities and other properties of the Legionaries would pass into the hands of the dioceses where they are located.A new institute could then be founded.

Fr Marcial Maciel founded the Legionaries of Christ in Mexico in 1941. The Legionaries have 3,250 male members, of whom 850 are priests. The order also has about 1,000 consecrated women, and some 60,000 members of Regnum Christi, the lay branch.

According to a former Legionary quoted by the Spanish religious journalist Jose Vidal, the ordinary priests and members of Regnum Christi, want a root-and-branch reform --if necessary, by means of a dissolution -- in order to give a new institute a fighting chance. But the order's leaders are fighting a defensive rearguard action, arguing that they knew nothing of the double life led by Maciel, and were therefore neither accomplices in his abuses nor did they attempt to cover them up.

While the leaders admit that Maciel had a mistress and a child, and are keen to distance themselves and the order from him, they are treading carefully, aware that no order has ever survived the repudiation of its founder.

Sep 18, 2009

Mass Etiquette: When babies cry at mass I want to....

Deacon Greg gets a major hat tip for this one that I will now turn into a series of shoulds and shouldn'ts at mass. These will come complete with stories of real events that happened at mass and the resulting fallout from the event.

The good Deacon points us today to this blog which talks about things that "Father should never say..."

What Father says, "Please, be mindful of your children during Mass. We have a cry room." What parents hear: "Your kids are disruptive brats and you cannot control them. They have no place at Mass, so why do you insist on ruining our prayer with these public displays of your failed parenting? Go somewhere else!"

I probably agree with Father here that parents are certainly resentful of priests who point out how their children are being a disturbance. I would also say that if we are really about being pro-life, a crying baby should be music to our ears. A family's presence at mass should indeed be a celebration for us all.


I do like the idea of a cry room for noisy babies. It's not a room that people should opt to sit in at mass simply because they have a baby. It should be a place that people CAN go to WHEN their child starts screaming and wailing and is becoming a disturbance. I would also note that parents wouldn't bring a crying baby into a show at a Broadway theatre--but they are often pretty much OK with having them be a disturbance at mass. That seems to be inconsistent to me.

The "rambunctious child" who should know better is more of my concern. I've seen this more often. A kid who simply is not engaged and doesn't sit still during mass. They are probably 2 or 3 and they are often given everything to play with from keys to racecars to coloring books. Granted mass is not exactly a Sesame Street production that might hold their attention (especially in certain parishes!) but I do think that a parent can whisper to a child to teach them what is happening without it being much of a disturbance. My own mother often taught me to read during mass by having me listen to the priest's words and following along in the missalette.

A further however...

"Father" and even "lay minister" should be pastorally sensitive to parents at all costs. We should consider what it took for this family to get their children fed, dressed, looking presentable, avoiding meltdowns and traffic jams to get to mass. Here is perhaps the worst story I have ever heard:

A priest in a parish that I won't name was preaching his homily. A woman was seated near the front with her 4 young boys all close in age, say 7, 5, 3, and an infant in her arms. Her boys (as they will tend to do) began to get rambunctious during mass. One would punch the other in the arm only to be kicked back. The other would kick the kneeler. The baby spit up. This young mother had all she could do to maintain order. Any parent can probably relate. The boys would indeed listen to her when she told them to cut it out but there was certainly a constant need for her scolding them or centering them back on the mass.

At one point mother snapped her fingers at the boys and leaned over to them, kissed one on the head and pulled him closer to her to keep him from killing his little brother. At that juncture the priest on the altar screamed out one word: "YOU!" and he pointed his finger right at the woman.

"YOU ARE A TERRIBLE MOTHER! NOW TAKE THOSE KIDS AND GET OUT OF HERE AND DON'T COME BACK UNTIL THEY ARE BETTER BEHAVED! I have worked very hard on this homily all week and your children are disturbing the entire parish!"

Yikes! Father, you might want to try the decaf. I doubt that they were disturbing anyone except maybe a few nearby parishioners who seemed to be more sympathetic to their cause than anything else.

The mother started up the aisle with kids in tow, eyes downcast. Over 20 parishioners walked out with her in protest of the priest's arrogance and found the next parish up the block to be much more accommodating to this young lady and her kids.

If I were pastor (and I'm not) I would state at the beginning of mass just "How wonderful it is to see so many families at mass. We are a parish that welcomes all people and how blessed we are to see the children here with their parents. Just one logistical item, we don't want to lose your presence here so we have constructed a cry room for children that become too rambunctious or who start crying. We don't encourage you to sit there throughout the entire mass, nor do we wish to exile you there. HOWEVER, if it is obvious to you and to those around you that baby or child is simply too noisy or is in the midst of a meltdown please feel free to take them to the crying room until they can calm down and more peacefully and comfortably sit amongst the congregation.

As laity, I think we also have a responsibility to help young parents. Maybe grabbing the diaper bag from them when they have their hands full? Maybe offering to baby sit for them so they can have a respite for themselves? Maybe bringing them some water or offering to help them with some other matter? We are a community of faith and that means we need to be concerned for the needs of all--babies included.

This is really all about courtesy in my opinion, from all sides. What do you think? When babies cry at mass what do you want to do or wish would happen?

What does St. Robert Bellarmine have to do with Galileo, Kayne West, Serena Williams and Congressman Wilson?

Paulist Seminarian Tom Gibbons tells us more

So why are we talking about this today? Because the person whose feast we celebrate today, Saint Robert Bellarmine, was very much involved in the controversy… not as a persecutor but as someone who provided comfort to the afflicted. Our Church calendar tells us that Saint Robert served as a moderating influence during this controversy and provided Galileo with much friendly advice.

So let’s put aside for a moment whether or not Galileo was right. What’s important for our purposes is the example Saint Robert offers in the way to conduct oneself during times disagreement and controversy. And if we’ve only been casually reading the newspapers for the past week, it is an example we badly need. From Congressmen Wilson shouting to the President in a nationally televised speech, to Serena Williams screaming at a line judge, to Kanye West embarrassing Taylor Swift because he disagreed with her award… it is hard not to wonder if our souls are now swayed not by the wisest but the LOUDEST. It is hard not to wonder if the presentation isn’t extreme, whether or not it has a place in our discourse.

Lots more at the link here.

Today's Inspiration

Rush: We need segregated buses

Rush Limbaugh is trying to continue to keep whatever dwindling audience he has left by making another outlandish racist remark.

From Rawstory

In a remark extraordinary even by the standards of conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh, the right-wing radio heavyweight declared on his program Wednesday that the United States needed to return to racially segregated buses.

Referring to an incident in which a white student was beaten by black students on a bus, Limbaugh said: “I think the guy’s wrong. I think not only it was racism, it was justifiable racism. I mean, that’s the lesson we’re being taught here today. Kid shouldn’t have been on the bus anyway. We need segregated buses — it was invading space and stuff. This is Obama’s America.”

The final sentence is really the betrayal of his obvious racist thoughts and what he wants his listeners to come away with. The implication here is: "Do you see what happens when you make a black man the most powerful man on the planet?"

Limbaugh is no fool. He knows how to stir the pot and he I am giving him the attention that he seeks. Will I ever learn? Probably not. I wonder if there was a black student beaten up by a bunch of white kids, or a gay student beaten up by a bunch of straight kids if Rush would have stated the same opinion?

Bottom line

Sep 17, 2009

In Boise with the Recently Ordained

It's been an interesting two days with the recently ordained priests (1-5 years ordained, that is) of the Boise Diocese. I was invited to come and give them a series of workshops on both young adults and how to use technology in ministry.

The group has an international flair with several from Mexico and Latin America, one Polish priest, an Asian and two anglo-americans. I asked what world events may have caused them to question God's existence or even helped them see God working in the world differently than they may have expected and some new events came to fore:

An Earthquake in South America
Elections in Guatemala
The first McDonald's in China (which meant Communism was becoming more open to Western ideas)
The fall of communism and the Soviet Union.

Awesome conversations and people here are beginning to use technology well. One priest already has a radio show and will begin to podcast it now. Others may start blogging. Text messaging has been a huge mode of communicating upcoming events and so the diocese seems ripe for using Twitter and Facebook more regularly. Upheaval of Diocesan and parish-based websites can now happen with more ease as well.

It's always great to see brother priests bond together in a somewhat fraternity-style of agape-love for each other. They rib each other about their own shortcomings and tease each other in a myriad of ways.

I even heard about one of the worst homily ideas ever (not given by anyone who was present here). A priest wielded a gun from the pulpit trying to make a point about the dangers and destruction of sin in one's life. He sent the entire congregation running for cover! Hysterical...well, kinda dopey...but still, a great story nonetheless.

And nobody got hurt!

Please pray for these fine men and their Bishop as they embrace the church in the great state of Idaho.

Sep 16, 2009

Princess and the Priest

In case you missed's still funny.

Sep 14, 2009

Wow! This is Just Crazy!

The latest Busted Borders

Sep 10, 2009

Heaven's Got a New DJ

Paul Bain is someone that many of you may not immediately recognize but in NYC radio circles he was a legend of country music. I met Paul back in my college days when I was the sports director at WFUV which was a student-run station then that filled in the off-hours with block programming run by mostly volunteers and alumni. Paul was one of many of the shows that fell into the block format. "Let There Be Country" was an amazing weekly trip into the heart of country music, never pop. "Country music by Country artists," was Paul's mantra and it was amazing. Paul Bain died this week and he was so good to me when I was in school and had plenty of advice for a young guy who wanted to get into the radio biz.

"You should all go to the middle of nowhere and just find your own voice. Right now, you're all doing bad imitations of New York sportscasters." Bain once told me. And he was right. I loved that he was brave enough to call it as he saw it.

But what I'll most remember about Paul was his resiliency. After suffering a heart attack, Paul jumped right back into the DJ booth even though he could barely talk. He'd have some of us staffers fill in for his ailing voice while he selected music and even wrote bits of what he would normally say for folks who'd be the on-air fill in hosts.

After WFUV switched from student run to an NPR affiliated station they brought in a new format and several new "professional" staffers and began the push to move students out of the on-air roles they had been playing. A lot of feelings were hurt and besides students feeling like they were being treated badly, many of the volunteers who had been providing free programming for the station for years also felt snubbed. What's worse is that management decided that they weren't going to tell the volunteers until the last minute out of fear of reprisal.

Dave Connors, who was my college roommate and who is now deceased as well, got wind of the firings and knew that Bain had been planning a very special show in a few weeks. He also knew that the show would never air as they were going to can Paul the week before. All that work was going to go for naught, until Dave brought Paul into a studio and told him the bad news. He was going to be fired.

Bain's reaction was such a classy move:

"Really? Well, OK. I'll move some of what I planned up a week and do a great last show. But it's OK. They don't want me on the station? That's fine. I'll go home and take my wife to the movies. Not a big deal. Look I just had a ling road back to health--this is nothing. I'll survive."


What I loved even more was his reaction when General manager Ralph Jennings offered him a consultancy gig the next day:

Bain: "So let me see if I've got this right...You're saying that my music isn't good enough to be played on this station, but now you're offering me the opportunity to consult with you about the music that you should play on the station? Is that right?

Jennings: "Yes."

Bain: "Dr Jennings, thanks for consolation prize but I think I'm a lot better than that and I'm going to take my music elsewhere."

And he did:
Paul moved to WFDU and stayed there for years with his weekly show Let There Be Country. For years they tried to get him to be the daily morning show host and he continually turned it down.

"You don't want me in the morning! I'm grumpy and angry and half-asleep! I'd be a disaster!"

Paul was a man who knew himself very, very well.

WFDU bills his program as "New York's longest running country show." May it continue in his memory.

A tip of the cowboy hat to a great guy who I'll always remember as a teacher and a great friend.

And that kinda reminds me of a song:

I Could Tell That Buffalo Had These Kinds of Great People

Sep 9, 2009

Today's Students: Here's What I'll Be Dealing With...

Shuffling Off to Buffalo After 9 Awesome Years

It is with mixed emotions that I announce that after 9 years I have decided to leave Busted Halo® full-time to focus on more direct ministry with young adults as a Campus Minister at St Joseph's University Parish (pictured above) which also serves as the Newman Center for SUNY Buffalo.

The move comes after much reflection over the past few years on my part, on what my own gifts and talents are and how I can best use them to serve the church. I found that doing retreats, spiritual direction with young adults and preaching were where I found the most life in ministry and while spending a good deal of time working on Busted Halo's® Catechetical section, the podcast and speaking around the country, I've felt like I need to test many of the ideas in my book with a particular community. When St Joseph's approached me, I was intrigued by the idea of working at a Univeristy Parish and with the biggest school in the state and moving to a new place that is not that far away from family and friends and yet, still a new adventure where I can grow as a minister.

Busted Halo® and I are talking about how I can continue to contribute to their ministry from Buffalo despite moving on from full time status, something I am open to pursuing and that I think has mutual benefits for all involved. I will remain in New York for the next month or so, finishing up some projects with Busted Halo® and chairing the Sapientia et Doctrina dinner for Fordham's Graduate School of Religion. I will also direct NCYAMA's National Listening Session Project for the next 3 years and remain on the board for the Curran Center for American Catholic Studies at Fordham where we are planning a major conference on the transition between college and young adult life in June 2010.

Naturally, I'll also remain on the conference circuit as a keep those invites coming.

St Joseph's is a great community! I attended mass their last Sunday and was really impressed by their community's atmosphere. I join their staff with some familiar faces nearby. The great Patty Bubar Spear is the youth minister on staff and we know each other from the conference circuit. Ann Marie Eckert is on the staff of the Center for Ministry Development and she rents office space at the parish and has been a great friend for some time as well. So this is hardly foreign territory for me.

I'm excited for a new challenge! Fr. Dave Dwyer, Busted Halo's® director is happy that I am moving into something that reflects my own pastoral gifts and I have received many touching letters from a lot of my Paulist friends who have and always will mean the world to me. I know that the spirit of Paulist Founder Isaac Hecker will always live in my heart and that I will remain "a Paulist" forever. I owe those men everything. They have made me all that I am as a minister and they trusted me with a project that was a new venture and I am proud of the success that Busted Halo® has become and confident that it will remain the industry standard for young adult evangelization.

Special thanks go to the many Paulists and lay associates who I have worked alongside for so many years especially, Fr Brett Hoover, CSP who founded the ministry with me 9 years ago and remains one of my closest friends and colleagues. Bill McGarvey, who knows how to run a magazine better than anyone I know took the reigns of Busted Halo® and deserves much credit for its continued success. Fr Dave Dwyer, CSP, whose gifts of enthusiasm, broadcasting, and good humor (along with an infectious laugh) have made him one of the more prolific figures in the American priesthood today has become someone who I have been so gifted to work alongside. Fr Frank DeSiano, CSP, who hired me for the position of Associate Director, when he was Paulist President provided early leadership and had the insight for the Paulists to enter the world of young adult ministry. He then gave Fr. Brett and I a lot of freedom to experiment and try something new and creative. The current Paulist President Fr John Duffy, CSP helped me gain more education at Fordham and was always more than supportive of us.

To the great staff at the Graduate School of Relgion at Fordham, especially Fr Tony Ciorra and Dr Kieran Scott, your support produced much fruit in the publication of the book, Googling God. Without Fr. John's generosity and Fordham's pushing I never would have been able to write the book, nor would these posts exist. Fr Michael Hunt, CSP and Fr Michael Kerrigan, CSP also helped shepherd the book into it's final form. Fr Hunt did not live to see the book published but I know that he was proud of the project and he was a great supporter who I owe a great debt of gratitude. Rest in peace, Michael.

Two new colleagues, Brittany Janis and Jarrad Venegas made Busted Halo® an even harder place to leave. I will miss working alongside them so much each day, but I know we will keep in touch from afar. Jeff Guhin always made me laugh whenever I was in his presence and will soon become Yale's most prolific sociologist. Our Googling God experts made me look good and make my job easy as the editor of the Question Box: Ginny Kubitz Moyer, Fr Thomas Ryan, CSP, Rachel Bundang, Fr Rick Malloy, SJ and Joe Paprocki --you are all so gifted and talented as teachers of the faith in a new technological age.

For those of you who led Busted Halo® retreats...thank you, thank you thank you. You have given me much strength over the years. Special thanks to Andrea Spooner who led more retreats than anyone just because I asked her. My Chicago colleagues at Charis Retreats, Michael Sparough, SJ, Jenene Francis (now a bigwig at the province), Lauren Gaffey, Lauren Burke and Briana Colton--thanks for your support. We'll keep the retreats going in Buffalo!

And to those who I served on the board with at NCYAMA, most especially to Paul Jarzembowski and Michelle Miller who served as Executive Directors and Sr. Eileen McCann and Barbara Anderson who were USCCB liaisons, there's nobody better in the biz than y'all.

As for this blog, it will continue. Perhaps more in the morning hours when students are in class (or sleeping off the partying!), or as time allows in general. But I will not leave you orphans!

For all who have supported me for the past 9 years, I have no other words but "thank you." My wife and biggest fan, Marion has shared me with all of you and we are both looking forward to a new life together in Buffalo where she and our dog, Haze, will share me with 27,000 students, half of whom share our Catholic faith! Without Marion, I am truly nothing.

It will be, and has been, an adventure in which much love to the world of young adults has been fulfilled in Christ.

Please keep us in your prayers and pray for the possible Sainthood of Fr Hecker as that process continues for my brother Paulists.

Googling God

Googling God
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